Friday, October 12, 2012

Bean there, done that

Tuscany Bean Salad - photo by Lori Korleski Richardson
Young, tender rainbow chard, fresh from the garden
Photo by Lori Korleski Richardson
Tuscany is a food lovers dream. And one of its claims to fame is its bean dishes. Tuscany is so tied to beans that its people are known as "mangiafagioli" (bean eaters) in the rest of Italy.

One of Tuscans' favorite beans is the cannellini, sometimes called "white kidney beans" in American stores. That is a horrible misnomer: Except for the shape, cannellini beans have nothing in common with kidney beans. Not the color, not the texture and especially not the taste.

Even after cooking, cannellinis keep their shape, their firmness belying their tender insides. They have a pleasant nutlike flavor, and their mild taste makes them a favorite for minestrones.

They make a great salad, hearty enough to continue into winter when local lettuces are long gone. Keep a few cans around and you can have this salad until your chard freezes. And it's good without chard, after that. To make it a main-dish salad, add a drained can of tuna, or serve on a bed of prepared wheatberries.

Lori K's Tuscan bean salad
© 2012, Lori Korleski Richardson
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side salad

1 can cannellini beans (or white Northern or navy beans), rinsed and drained well
1 small red onion, half, peeled and sliced thinly
4-6 young rainbow chard leaves, sliced and microwaved, covered, until just wilted, about a minute
1 tablespoon capers
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Arugula or wheatberries, optional

In a bowl, combine the beans, onion, chard and capers, and tuna if using. Season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil and toss to coat well. Chill.

To serve, put on a plate of arugula or chilled wheatberries. Serve.

Note: To prepare wheatberries, put 1 cup in 3 cups boiling water and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and chill.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

An apple a day ... straight from the oven

I've always loved baked apples, but haven't made them very often, being concerned about the amount of sugar, nuts and butter that are used to make them taste good. But lately, I've been cooking some for breakfast, and I am pleased to share that they don't really need any butter, much less sugar, and nuts are completely optional.

 You don't really need to peel their skins off, either, which saves prep time and gives you a little more fiber as well. Granted, they are a little tough and need to be handled with care while the apples are hot.

I cut the apples in quarters, pare out the seeds with a small knife, then cut each quarter in half again lengthwise. I put all the slices from three apples in a large gratin dish (mine is enameled cast iron), sprinkle them with granola, a little brown sugar and cinnamon, and add some Craisins.

Usually I do this all the night before, because I'm a bit foggy in the morning before the first cup of coffee kicks in. I turn on the oven to 350 degrees when I turn on the coffee, slip the gratin dish in as the oven is warming and set the timer for 40 minutes (allowing the oven to bring the cold dish up to 350 and then bake for 30 minutes. Your oven may take more or less time to preheat.).

When the apples look like they are about to collapse and the melted sugar and juices are bubbly, they are ready. Serve in a bowl, either alone or with a little milk. Delicious.

When the pan has cooled, add some water and let it stand until the sugar dissolves. It will then be easy to clean.